Street vendors have been the hallmark of NYC since the 1860’s The First pushcart peddlers began roaming the Lower East Side Over 12,000 people currently make their living selling their wares in the 5 boroughs (Manhattan, Queens , Brooklyn, The Bronx and Staten Island) Most vendors are immigrants, people of color, or disabled veterans Traditional vendors have earned very little money and work under harsh conditions Provide an important service Convenient and affordable goods to visitors & New Yorkers. Five areas of focus will be 1) History of vending and Changing Demographics Street vendors by category Who they are Where they are from What they sell Why they vend Manhattan vs. Outer Boroughs 2) Turf Wars on the Streets : Conflict among traditional vendors / newest entrepeneurs 3) Storefront Issues – Controversy with established brick and mortar businesses or restaurants 4 ) Street Vendor Advocacy 5) Ten Ways to Improve Vending in NYC
1a) History of vending in New York City For generations NYC has offered individuals a chance and a means at the American dream by selling food and merchandise on the street Wave after wave of immigrants and entrepreneurs used vending as a stepping stone to financial security. Arrived with little more than what they could carry thru Ellis Island - vending was the ideal entry level job Little capital was required 75 cents is all you needed to rent your own push cart Shopping on the street was a familiar activity Millions of impoverished new immigrants purchase inexpensive goods close to home. By the turn of the century more than 25,000 vendors worked in Manhattan alone - Today More than12,000 + make their living vending 1b)Review Report findings: Today’s Conditions in Vending In Peddling Uphill A report on the conditions of the street vendors in NYC conducted by the Street Vendor Project ( vendor advocay group) of the Urban Justice Center 2006 100 vendors were selected and asked detailed questions about their lives and work in a survey Results dispel myths about vendors that have developed throughout the years Shows why the legendary success stories of the past are nearly unthinkable today Face many regulations and harassment and can barely subsist on their pay Vendors are not supported and are being targeted as “quality of life” criminals In the last few years : An influx of new entrepreneurial food trucks A Downturn in the Economy has brought in new highly visible vendors trying to compete with traditional vendors and brick and mortar restaurant owners
Currently there is 3000 vendor permit cap for food sold all year 1979, the City capped the number of licenses for general merchandise vendors at 853. For a total of 3853 total permits 1000 approx. Military veterans vending - 1896 military licensing preference granted 28% of vendors exercise their first amendment right sometimes because of the inability to obtain a vendors permit List has been closed to new applications since 1991. 25 year waiting list a. Rozhon, Tracie and Rachel Thorner, “On the Streets, Genuine Copies (And a Few Originals),” New York Times, May 26, 2005. b. Estimated 1c) Myths and Realities Regarding Vending in NYC Traditionally Characterized as dirty, dishonest, and greedy - sentiments carried over by racism, classism and xenophobia. They always reflect the most recent waves of immigration. GREATEST MYTH THAT MOST VENDORS ARE “ILLEGAL” Majority Legal and not citizens Documented and authorized to work Harassed and afraid of immigration authorities Green card holders Since 9/11, stricter immigration policies and transnational lifestyles EXIST Native born vendors in the minority (17%).
1d) Demographics of Present Vendors in NYC Today’s street vendors – From all over the world (Chinese, Senegalese, Bangladeshi, Egyptian, Afghani, Mexican, Russian, etc.) Direct descendants of the primarily Jewish and Italian pushcart peddlers of yesteryear. While many choose to vend because their other options are limited Motivated principally by ambition and self reliance. Vast majority are educated Transnational -Support large families both here and abroad Work long hours in unhealthy conditions Shockingly low wages. Survey Indicates 83% of Lower Manhattan’s vendors are immigrants Come from more that 20 countries and 4 continents Top represented nations 18% Bangladesh 16% China 12% Afghanistan Top Languages Spoken 21% Bengali 20% English 15% Chinese and Cantonese
Ambitious peddlers often worked their way off the street onto storefronts Many successful NYC Businesses including: D’Agostino’s supermarkets Cohen Fahion Optical OddJob Trading Bloomingdales and Even Macy’s Were founded by door to door peddlers 1e) Why They Vend ½ vend because they feel they have to ½ they want to While most are Proud of their Job they Expressed disappointment at being stuck in the same position for many years Only 7% earn a good income 10 % Enjoy it 38% feel they have no other options 83 % want to be their own boss 7% have a disability 27% Love the freedom of the work 11% variety of other reasons
1f) Outer Borough Vendors Luis Friend of my mothers and a food cart vendor Sells Tamales Leaves his home at 5:30 to begin work at 6am Works in the Bronx near the court houses Testified he is favored, not as much conflict as his other vendor friends Area police go to him for breakfast An incident - a new food cart vendor came over to sell coffee and parked his cart next to Luis’ Someone from a local restaurant called the police When police arrived, both vendors were cited with $1000 fines The cops apologized to Luis but said they could not openly favor him and only ticket one and not the other On another occasion Luis met up with a friend and handed him a tamale while THE friend was waiting for the bus. Was fined another $1000 for vending too close to a bus stop The police would not accept the explanation Luis gave that no money had exchanged hands and that the two were friends Picture- Jackson Heights Queens food areas extend into Corona Queens Largest number of different ethnic groups in NYC in one area. Families meet on weekends to share a regional meal outdoors Zoned for 24hour operation Large community of workers who come home at late hours and stop to eat
Turf War at the Hot Dog Cart NY TimesElwood Smith By JULIA MOSKIN Published: June 30, 2009 2a) Turf Wars Story: Owners of the Street Sweets (high end pastries) food truck loaded by 6 a.m., parked in front of the Museum of Modern Art at 7, traded hostilities with other vendors from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., and were surrounded by police officers by 2. The original vendor who had been using that location for the last 18 years decided to fightback.Originally the troubles for Street Sweets began when diners sitting outside at a high end restaurant left, complaining of the truck’s noise. A few days later, the management of a glossy high rise that is the landlord for Bistro Milano, called officials to pressure the couple into moving on for good. Soon the truck was surrounded by police officers, firefighters and a hazmat squad. In the last two years, upscale food trucks have swarmed the streets, entrancing New Yorkers with everything from artisanal Earl Grey ice cream to vegan tacos. These highly visible trucks, their outspoken owners and their followers on Twitter, Facebook and food blogs, have broken the code of the streets that has long kept a relative peace among food vendors. Turf wars are nothing new for carts selling kebabs and cheap coffee. For the creators of organic tacos, chicken Thai dumplings and creme anglaise- rough sidewalk encounters and regulations bureaucracy encounters are unpleasant and unexpected. In a downturn economy where many of the new business owners are coming in as career changers, once the new vendor has fought his way onto the street he is determined to find the slice of the American dream. The established vendors, on the other hand, see newcomers as competitors with an unfair advantage in a desperate economy. By entering into a world of unwritten rules where vendors have typically occupied the same location for dozens of years or more, handing down the legacy of the business from generation to generation, the entrepreneurs have shaken down the old-schoolers. With both sides feeling the economic pinch they have begun to fight back. According to Michael Wells, a director of the Street Vendor Project, a nonprofit group that advocates for vendors. Requests for permits has increased from two or three to a dozen a week. Backlogs in licensing, harassment from other vendors resistance from restaurants or the brick and mortar businesses is increasing. The new vendor are white collar and have advanced degrees or may have left a six figure job to build their own business. They are not afraid of immigration authorities and openly question regulations The city, other than blocking certain streets entirely and enforcing parking regulations, does not dictate locations for food carts. But spots are virtually owned by vendors who have worked them for decades; they are handed down within families and even sold on the black market. Blackmarket; notorious black market in the food vendor permits issued by the city’s Department of Health. Many vendors said they had secured their permit by paying unauthorized fixers � or by entering into partnerships with existing permit holders. A permit is not only important to protect from the authorities, but from other vendors. A common form of retribution among vendors is to report one another to city authorities for permit violations. The black market, vendors say, is nourished by the city’s bureaucracy. Many, especially those for whom English is not a first language, pay brokers to navigate the system. These illegal go-betweens are common in the central depots where food vendors are required by the Health Department to park their carts and trucks. The $200 permits are valid for two years and can be renewed indefinitely. Their black-market value is tremendous: up to $15,000 for two years, according to a report released by the city’s Department of Investigation. New food vendors looking to point out the deficiencies, of the old vendor black market – Street vendor project is looking to support all vendors and move to change the regulation system to one that is fair for all of the vendors .
Under the guise of public safety, the city has erected a complex web of overlapping and conflicting regulations The city continues to treat these small businesspeople like criminals. Jurisdiction over vending is divided between at least ten different city agencies. Punishments for minor violations have become so severe that many vendors cannot work. Licensing restrictions have forced many to vend illegally, under constant threat of arrest. The city intends to regulate street vending to ensure work But destroying their products by confiscating and them auctioning off their wares. Denying them a fair hearing, - no translations and no legal representation Drive them from areas where they have vended for years at the whims of giant corporations and powerful business groups Passing regulations governing their livelihood without any notification (A fine for leaving your post means - no bathroom breaks) The violations are mostly for the physical position of vendors’ carts and tables, which must be certain distances from curbs, crosswalks, and building doors. Vendors are also frequently ticketed for not “conspicuously” wearing their vending license and for setting up shop on restricted streets. “ Quality of life” crackdowns mean more restrictions It’s virtually impossible to get a general vending license and the estimated wait is several decades! (30 years) And the fines are shockingly steep at $1000 – as a comparison, a parking ticket is $65. The violations make it much less likely to be able to climb out of marginal wages These resources not only make it confusing for vendors but for the government too. Sean pointed out several tickets where even the police officers got the rules wrong. What if English is your second language?
Businesses and BIDs Finally, seven percent of Lower Manhattan vendors reported problems with nearby businesses or Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). Security guards at downtown office buildings frequently harass and intimidate vendors to get away from their premises. 典 h e standard is 20 feet [from a store entrance], but the managers don’t care, � said one vendor. 典 h ey tell me to leave. I had to move so many times. � Some vendors also experienced being displaced from their spots by businesses that block the already-narrow downtown sidewalks with concrete planters. Did you know you can get a $1000 ticket for parking more than 18 inches from the curb? Vendor Power!Vendor Power! decodes the rules and regulations for New York ’ s 12,000 street vendors so they can understand their rights, avoid fines, and earn an honest living. It doubles as a poster on the rich landscape and history of vending in the City. This pamphlet was produced through a collaboration between the Street Vendor Project and designer Candy Chang . The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) CUP a Brooklyn based non profit organization that uses art and visual culture served as project manager and provided working stipends, research assistance, and direction throughout the process. Making Policy Public (MPP) is one of CUP’s programs: a series of fold-out posters that use graphic design to explore and explain public policy. Each poster is the product of a commissioned collaboration between a designer and an advocate. This series aims to make information on public policy truly public: accessible, meaningful, and shared. Goal was to make an educational resource for vendors that clarifies the rules and their rights when confronted by police officers and demystify the regulations of street vending in New York City. VENDOR POWER highlights the history of vending, personal vendor stories, and policy reforms to help develop a more just system. Most importantly the a vendor will know how many inches to keep away from a sidewalk or the entrance of a building CUP published several thousand copies of the poster, provide distribution support, and give 1000 copies to The Street Vendor Project for use in their advocacy and education work.
Ten Ways to Improve Vending in New York Lift the Cap. The number of merchandise licenses and food vending permits have been arbitrarily limited at 853 and 3,000, respectively. Demand far outweighs supply; the waiting list for a merchandise license is now longer than 25 years. No names have even been added since 1993. In the meantime, most food vendors are forced to pay thousands of dollars every year to rent their permits from permit holders. Aspiring vendors have no chance of getting a license, forcing many to vend illegally. By removing the cap on licenses and permits, the city could create thousands of jobs during a time of rising unemployment and government cutbacks. By bringing vendors into the system, the city will also collect millions in additional tax revenue. Pressure from the Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) has kept it from happening. 2. End Forfeitures. The city seeks forfeiture of items. In one case, the city sued an ice cream vendor for his $80,000 truck after a single violation. The city puts street vendors out of business, permanently, after a single violation. Courts have already found this forfeiture policy to be unconstitutionally excessive. 3. Abolish the Review Panel. The Street Vendor Review Panel was created to determining which streets would be closed to vending. The Review Panel does the bidding of powerful business interests. While the BIDs hire “transportation consultants,” vendors and their advocates are swept aside. In nine years, the Review Panel closed more than 130 blocks to vending. How many streets were opened? Zero. 4. Reform Enforcement. Of all the problems street vendors face, police harassment is by far the greatest. Each day, vendors are inspected by a different officer – with a different interpretation of the law. Enforcement is arbitrary and inconsistent. Compliance with the vending laws and Enforcement against street vendors should be done by trained Health and Consumer Affairs inspectors, not the NYPD. 5. Streamline Bureaucracy . Street vending in New York is overseen by at least ten city agencies. For example, the Department of Health (DOH), which licenses food vendors and inspects their carts, recently closed its Manhattan inspection center, forcing vendors to push their carts all the way to Queens and back. When property is confiscated it - is returned is often damaged, yet vendors have no where to turn. The city should establish a single agency (like the Taxi & Limousine Commission) to consolidate these functions and streamline the vending bureaucracy. 6. Write Manual. Current laws are a mixture of state statutes; various city rules and regulations; state and federal case law, and unpublished city memorandums. The city should make an attempt to combine these laws into an easy-to-use format. Vendors and police officers alike need a simple, readable and authoritative manual published in multiple languages. 7. Legalize Craft Vending. In 1996, a federal court ruled that, under the First Amendment, art may be sold on the street without a license. 5 As a result, hundreds of hard-working artists and craftspeople have been arrested for selling their unique, hand-made creations on the street. Their work is seized and often damaged. After a night in jail, the charges are invariable dropped. Already the harm has been done. 8. Improve Adjudication . There is no opportunity for mediation or settlement. Judges should be given discretion to reduce fines in appropriate cases in the interests of justice. Otherwise, exorbitant fines of as much as $1,000 each will continue to put many hard-working people out of work. Also, by being made to return to court repeatedly – losing a day’s earnings each time. Finally, the city should provide interpreters so that vendors who don’t speak English can explain their case. 9. Abolish Bidding. In 1995, City Council passed the “one-vendor, one-permit” law to limit the exploitation of vendors by the large corporations that had accumulated hundreds of permits. Companies vying for vending spots in the parks, however, are exempt; Now, the administration is reportedly considering a similar bidding system for our city streets! Bidding would force out of business the hard-working individuals who have always been the hallmark of street vending in New York. Vendors will never be able to out-bid huge corporations like Wendy’s, which was recently awarded a vending contract for a park in the Bronx. 10. Provide Small Business Assistance. Vendors should be given training to grow their businesses. Create a program for street vendors to learn basic accounting, tax, and marketing skills. vendors should be given low-interest loans to move into vacant storefronts. Since 9/11, food vendors can no longer cross the city’s bridges with propane; they’re required to store their carts in commissaries. The city should consider providing storage depots for vendors to keep their goods and pushcarts at night. A lawyer and former vendor himself, Sean founded The Street Vendor Project in 2001 as a legal advocacy group for NYC street vendors. The organization has 700+ vendor members who collectively work together to make their voices heard. They publish reports to raise public awareness about vendor issues, file lawsuits to support vendor rights, and help vendors grow their businesses by linking them with small business training and loans. While meeting at Sean’s office to learn more about vending issues and challenges, he pulled out a box containing heaps of pink tickets they’ve accumulated from local vendors:
2010 American Planning Association Conference in New Orleans Planning for Street Food Vendors Maria C. Garcia April 11, 2010
History of vending and Changing demographics Peddling Uphill: A report on the conditions of street vendors in New York City: A REPORT BY THE STREET VENDOR PROJECT OF THE URBAN JUSTICE CENTER, 2006
Vendor Tickets Issued by Violation Restricted street 16% Too close to Storefront, 15% Health Violations 10% Street too narrow, 8% Unlicensed 8% License not visible 5% No prices Posted 4% Other 12% Too far from Curb 22%
Peddling Uphill: A report on the conditions of street vendors in New York City:
A REPORT BY THE STREET VENDOR PROJECT OF THE URBAN JUSTICE CENTER, 2006
Too Close to Store Front http://www.anothercupdevelopment.org/VP-MPP.pdf